Senior public servant named secretary to the governor general following Payette’s resignation

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has named a senior public servant to lead the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General (OSGG) following the resignations of Julie Payette and her second-in-command Assunta Di Lorenzo amid allegations of misconduct.

Ian McCowan, who currently works in the Privy Council Office (PCO) as a deputy secretary to the federal cabinet, will become secretary to the governor general, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. McCowan will be responsible for restoring a healthy work environment at Rideau Hall after an outside workplace review found that Payette and Di Lorenzo presided over a toxic workplace.

The pair resigned last week following the completion of the report by Quintet Consulting, which contained allegations from dozens of current and former Rideau Hall staff members of “yelling, screaming, aggressive conduct, demeaning comments and public humiliation.”

The workplace review confirmed many of the details contained in a CBC report from July that quoted sources saying Payette and Di Lorenzo had created a toxic environment of verbal harassment and abuse.

Report recommended increased oversight

The PCO, which oversees the federal public service, initiated the independent review two days after the CBC report was published. 

One of the main recommendations of the workplace review was that the PCO increase its oversight of the OSGG until such a time that the health of the workplace could be reinstated. 

McCowan’s appointment restores the convention that the secretary be an experienced public servant.

Di Lorezno, a corporate lawyer and businesswoman who is a longtime friend of Payette, had no experience in the public service prior to her appointment.

McCowan has served in various roles in the federal public service since 1993.

The PMO also said that associate secretary to the governor general Marie-Geneviève Mounier will continue in her role. PCO created the associate secretary role in 2018.

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